Pitt Trauma Team Aims to Reduce Deaths by Providing Blood-Clotting Agent on STAT MedEvac Helicopters

By: Rick Pietzak


Trauma experts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC will launch a multi-center trial this summer to see if administering a blood-clotting drug to severely injured patients while they are being transported by helicopter to the hospital can improve survival rates.

Uncontrolled bleeding is a leading cause of death following a traumatic injury because it can lead to multiple organ failure and infection. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, the trial will build on past research indicating that tranexamic acid, commonly used in cardiac surgery, can lower mortality in patients at risk of bleeding following injury.

“A quarter of patients with severe traumatic injuries present with a tendency toward bleeding, which is associated with death occurring in a relatively short time. By bringing this drug to patients before they even get to the hospital, we may save lives,” said principal investigator Jason Sperry, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and critical care medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

During the three-year study, STAT MedEvac will enroll patients with blunt or penetrating trauma at risk for significant hemorrhage. In severely injured patients, a clot which forms may begin to break down, leading to more bleeding. Tranexamic acid is used to prevent clot breakdown. Tranexamic acid will be given in a randomized fashion to patients carried by the helicopters to participating trauma centers, which locally includes UPMC Presbyterian.

“Traditionally what we’ve done is we’ve been able to stop hemorrhage on the outside with things like bandages and tourniquets,” Frank Guyette, M.D., medical director for STAT MedEvac, said. “But we really didn’t have any tools to stop hemorrhages on the inside except getting a patient quickly to a surgeon.”

Because patients who have suffered these kinds of injuries are likely unable to consent to participation in the trial, the study will be conducted under a federally authorized exception from the informed consent process. Community members who do not wish to participate in this research study can obtain a bracelet to opt out by contacting Meghan Buck at 412-864-1599, or by email at buckml@upmc.edu.

More information is available at www.acutecareresearch.org.

A video of Dr. Sperry discussing the Study of Tranexamic Acid During Air Medical Prehospital Transport Trial, or STAAMP trial, is available at the UPMC YouTube page.